Parenting Spirituality

For the first time that I can remember, I went back and read a couple of my posts, specifically about parenting. There is an unnerving gap in not only my own thoughts, but popular culture as a whole, concerning parenting with a comprehensive, inclusive spiritual mindset.

I can’t stomach the establishment religion anymore, so I won’t be making references to such practices as prayer, personal bible study and/or acts of penance. I’ve spent the last 6 years trying to peel off the crusty, fossilized layers of my conservative christian upbringing, and at this point, I am far more interested in spending a Sunday morning playing Uno with my kids than powering through an antiquated, misogynistic sermon that is a mildly fluffier version of one delivered not two weeks prior.

I can say with a relative amount of certainty, that it is most quite possible, even preferable, to raise children, good, loving compassionate children, without the aid (or hinderance, later in life) of religion. That’s not to say that I remain ignorant of spiritual practices and activities that make my family and myself better people. We take many liberties in poaching practices from the wealth of knowledge in spiritual practice throughout the world. So, contrary to the argument I regularly heard growing up, it’s not enough to just “read the bible” for all moral and spiritual questions, with the footnote; *don’t ask any questions.

In the scope of human history, significant on it’s own merits, yet pathetic on a cosmic scale, there are most certainly moral people who have evolved outside of a religious incubator. I would argue pulling back to gain a larger view in order to absorb more rather than less is exponentially more beneficial.

Quick detour in the never, yet strangely predictable existence that is parenting. While writing about parenting with spirituality, as is most often the case, I’m interrupted, mid thought. “Daddy! Im done!” And I must go wipe my kid’s ass. In all of my parenting fantasies, not once did I think to myself, “I can’t wait to be a dad and stick my face and hands so perilously close to so many steaming piles of shit, produced entirely by the tiny, ever changing, always smelling, growing changing bodies that are inhabited by the minds of my two boys.”

I seem to be building an argument for a rather simple way of being a parent that seems so difficult to actually implement in an actual existence. First, be true. As a parent, I will make a treacherous mess of an alarmingly large number of scenarios throughout my parenting career. The sooner I admit that, the better off we will all be. Second, love the hell out of your kids. As more and more sunrises and sunsets get filed into the appallingly boring history of my own existence, the best I can do for my boys is to love them with such reckless abandon that they have no question of their place in the world, how they can change it and love it back.

Shit, I’m losing my train of thought. Between wiping asses, breaking up fights and pouring cereal, this post seems like a mild case of projectile vomit, starts off with such force, but leaves behind a terrible taste in your cheeks with the added bonus of a sore stomach.

I’ll try again later. I’m pretty sure there’s some good stuff waiting to come out.

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The ebb and flow of life

It’s been nearly two weeks now since the last post. Not that I’m boiling over with things to say, but it certainly seems like I write more when I’m a bit agitated. Though today, I feel pretty good all the way around. I guess that’s what happens when you have a great date night with the wife and friends, sans kids. 

It is also interesting that recently my wife and I were talking about the different states we often find ourselves in, the ebb and flow, if you will. There was a time not very many weeks ago that we were devouring books left and right, plowing through all sorts of thoughts and musings on life, our goals, what kinds of people we hope to be. Yet now, we have slowed down significantly in many ways. We are much more contemplative, silent, perhaps even slow. 

And in this slowness, we have discovered something that we’ve been, in a sense, searching for, but haven’t had language or expereince to describe it. My wife and I have been in some surface-y conversations with my family about purchasing land together and pooling resources. For years this idea has been simmering on the back burner, but this past week things became pretty clear, and clear in ways I’m not sure we were expecting. 

We realized through a pretty difficult conversation that we aren’t in the same place as my family. In fact, we are in very different places spiritually, emotionally, politically, even the prominent drivers of our existence are in completely different places. Having put all the pieces together  for the first time, we are ready to head a different direction. We’ve spent a great deal of our lives orienting them around a family that is fundamentally on a different plane than ourselves and we have finally been able to admit that truth, and it’s been awfully freeing. 

There will likely be more difficult conversations ahead, but we are following the path that best suits our family and that seems right and good. 

Maybe I can start writing a little more out of a sense of peace and calm than anger and frustration. That would certainly be a flow I’m not used to. I’ll see how it goes. 

Spilling the beans

My wife and I have been on quite a long spiritual journey that has, so far, brought us to our current space via a pretty rough road. We both were raised in gerally fundamentalist, evangelical homes in which our particular religious sect was right in God’s eyes, thus we’d cornered the market. 

Long story short, my wife is far more spiritually and mystically open because she has actually spent a significant amount of time reading, practicing yoga and meditation and largely preparing herself for divine encounters. Me on the other hand, I’ve chosen a much slower evolutionary path that is essentially, “I don’t want to invest that much intellectual and mental capital, so I’ll just punch the cruise button and fall asleep for 3 or 4 years. 

Now, I’m starting to come out of my self induced bout of ignorance and have really found the spiritual practices my wife has been apart of to be extremely valuable. Not just for myself, but in creating a deep sense of love and compassion in my cold heart for the community and world around me. Thankfully my wife has been massively supportive as I floundered around her intentionality for the past four years. We’ve always kept open the lines of communication which has proved to be an asset that we will continually invest in. 

Something has recently come up in our discussions, though, about how we maintain familial relationships with people to whom we view the world quite differently, especially when it comes to matters of our understanding of Creator/God/Wisdom/Universe, (however we choose to describe the ground of being) and how that…thing… interacts/interacted with the world in new or old, measurable or mystic, real or imagined ways. We have a fear that when and if we spill the beans about what we really believe about those things which they hold so tightly as foundational to their very existence, they’ll just cut us off completely, which is most certainly not something we are interested in. Nor are we interested in causing a crisis of faith for those family members. But it seems like we are approaching a tipping point where we aren’t able to as easily sit quietly and disagree. 

Our silence will likely continue for the time being as we haven’t come up with a good way to open that can… However, something I was thinking about this morning gave me a little bit of pause. Am I taking myself too seriously? Where’s the humor? Is there really not room for both of our viewpoints at the same table? Why does it have to be either we tell them and we’re cut off, or we don’t tell them and we’re miserable?

Again, middle ground. There has to be a place where we exist that isn’t concerned about the poles. Why must we choose to be separated? Of course we will disagree, on a great number of things I imagine, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still eat together, vacation together and let our kids play Star Wars together, right?

I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but I feel like something good is brewing, so I’ll take some intentional time to let it simmer. 

Where to now?

Yesterday was a pretty big day. The 20th of this month seems to have came and gone without much fanfare, but the 21st, the #Womensmarch, garnered quite a bit more attention. By the latest estimates, somewhere close to the tune of 4 million people marching all across the country.

Pretty big deal it seems. My wife was able to go to the Denver march and was, for lack of a better phrase, completely overwhelmed not just by the sheer scale of the crowd, but the fact that so many people were gathered with the same purpose. ¬†All that to say, we probably should have joined her. There were families with kids, dads, mothers, a little of everyone there. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to kick this fear that seems to be wrapped up in our white privilege. “What if our kids get hurt?” “Is this something we should expose our family to?”

The truth is, we live in a bubble. There are people who have been struggling for years and years. A man on the bus with my wife and her friends yesterday took the time to ask about the sign she was holding and what it was for. He thanked her for participating. Without skipping a beat, my wife immediately responded, “Sir, I am not worthy of thanks. You have been blazing this trail long before I was even born. You’ve shown us how its done. So, thank you!” As they sat on the bus, this black man teared up and simply responded, “Thank you.”

I have a sense things are shifting. I hope that people beginning to see the necessity of shedding this tribal language, us and them, right and wrong. Things are a bit more nuanced than that. We need each other, that I’m sure of. The other bits, I’m not sure. Are we two easily distracted? Flashy, glitzy magazine articles telling us what will make us happy, LED screens constantly alerting us of things someone else thinks are important, I’m right and you’re wrong…

Ancient wisdom teachers, mystics and peace advocates of today all seem to tell us there is something more, something better. The universe is unfolding, growing, increasing in its depth, complexity and unity (thanks Rob Bell – Everything is Spiritual), though I couldn’t hope to understand it, I certainly want to join in the process.

I am hopeful of the places we are going. I am ready to be a person of true authenticity, living life with all humanity. We need strong men, as one sign I saw from yesterday said, “to grow a vagina.” I am privileged, being white and male, and I need to use that privilege not for my own gain, but to speak honestly, compassionately and forcefully for those groups who have been silenced over the centuries. We all need to stand for the greater good, because it’s right.

The world is a better place when we are all on the same team.

Practice 

You know, some folks often say, “practice makes perfect.” Hell, I find myself saying that to my 10 year old all the time. I honestly can’t begin to imagine the number of times I’ve used that phrase which is quite interesting because there are others in my life who’ve been know to say things like, “practice what you preach.”

Well, we all know it’s much easier to point out the flaws in other people, especially our kids, because they don’t have any say in the matter; “I’m your dad!”

Truth is, I am not great at either of those two aphorisms. I have my days when I toil at something long enough that I gain a skill or actually pay attention to the things I’m saying, being aware enough to know when I’m about to put my own foot in my mouth. 

I think that’s the ticket, awareness. Seems to be a catch phrase lately, but my wife has been onto it for at least 5 years and she’s been doing her best to ivite me along with her on that journey. Sadly most of the time I more closely resemble a stubborn ass than a supportive husband and partner. That will change. As we like to say in our household, I need to “woman-up” and make some positive change for our family too. 

Side note: The whole man-up bit is, in my opinion, pretty ridiculous, especially, dudes, if we’re honest with ourselves, the reality is, we’re the pussies. Put me in a room pushing a baby out of my loins, sans medication. Ha! I can barely get myself out of bed with a cold and my wife is a fully functioning human being with a massive migraine, at the doctor’s office, kids screaming. And still she comes home to cook dinner, schedule a dentist visit, deal with insurance and sip hot tea next to my pathetic self on the couch. 

I digress. For the sake of my wellbeing and the wellbeing of my family, I must be one who practices presence and awareness, living life on purpose rather than hanging on and hoping things go well.